Many years ago, a friend was going through a painful marriage breakdown. She and her husband were both friends of ours and it was obvious to us and many of their friends that he had fallen out of love with her and she still loved him. He wasn’t a bad person, no one else was involved and they had no kids. I met her in Marks and Spencer’s coffee shop. We had tea and cake and she cried quietly about the loss of a man with whom she had spent most of her adult life.
Afterwards, we wandered around the Home section of the shop, which was near the cafe. She spent ages looking at different serving plates and one in particular took her eye – she stopped and remarked how nice it would look for serving salad.
I was shocked – what was she thinking? Her life is falling apart and she was shopping for homewares. I was worried for her health and whether she really grasped what was happening. I can no longer be so judgmental. Both L and I derive huge comfort from the mundane, the cup of tea after dinner, the evenings on the sofa or tidying our surroundings. And tonight, after a difficult mealtime, I suggested we went to the local Ikea. We are decorating her room and replacing the furniture and we walked around, discussing duvet covers, cushions for her TV corner and what type of wardrobe fittings. I asked her views about rugs for the kitchen. We bought boxes to pack away her possessions while the work is being done. I asked her opinion about a rucksack for my laptop.
Someone looking at us from outside might have stared in shock. An emaciated* young woman and her mother discussing what kind of bedding would suit a room in which she will not be sleeping for many weeks, possibly months while she is receiving inpatient treatment. But I feel comfort in this day to day activity – and recall with L our previous visits when we moved house after my marriage to her father broke down. We loved those visits because we were planning a new life away from a war zone. My friend was imagining a life when salad on a dish would look inviting and her heartbreak would have mended. L and I are designing what life without anorexia might be like, or just glimpsing images of what a different life might be. When life is ugly and dysfunctional, we seek out beauty, calm and order. It might be in the mountains of Spain, or an IKEA store. My partner laughs at me – who goes to IKEA for calm? But it felt like life once was and made us think of what it will be. And I bought a great rug…..
*I love that iPad auto correct wants to make this be spelt ’emancipated’….